Character Witness for Divorce

by Anna Green
It may be necessary to call character witnesses in divorces that involve custody disputes.

It may be necessary to call character witnesses in divorces that involve custody disputes.

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In a divorce case, a character witness may be a party who testifies about the moral fitness or personal qualities of a party to a divorce. In some jurisdictions, a character witness in a divorce case cannot be a family member. Rather, the witness must be a friend, colleague or personal associate who knows about the personal qualities of the party about whom he or she testifies.

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No Fault Divorce

At present, all states offer some form of no-fault divorce. This means that to divorce, neither spouse has to establish his or her partner acted improperly. Since no-fault divorce does not require either party to show proof they are of good moral character—or conversely, their spouse is of poor character—such witnesses are rarely necessary and used only infrequently in divorce cases. Nonetheless, in some divorce cases, it may still be necessary to call character witnesses.

First-Hand Knowledge

Character witnesses in a divorce trial can only testify to situations or incidents they have observed first hand. For example, a third-party who only heard a rumor one spouse was committing adultery would not be able to act as a character witness. If a close friend has observed one spouse hitting the other partner on multiple occasions, however, this individual may be a valuable character witness to support divorce on the grounds of abuse.

Custody Matters

One common situation in which character witnesses will testify in court is in a contested child custody matter. In child custody cases, the court will generally make a ruling based on the best interests of the child. In determining the child’s best interests, among other factors, the court will look at each parent’s character and moral fitness. In most cases, court-approved custody evaluators conduct parental character assessments. These assessments may involve speaking to family members, friends or other parties who have a close knowledge of each parent’s character and demeanor. These interviews are just one of many assessment tools the custody evaluator will use, however. In some instances, the court may want to hear directly from character witnesses. In these situations, the character witnesses will be sworn in and treated like other witnesses in the case.

Uncontested Divorce

In certain states, such as Ohio, parties may need to call a character witnesses in an uncontested divorce case. Specifically, these character witnesses would be necessary if only one spouse is able attend the final divorce hearing. In cases such as these, the character witness would testify that you are honest and credible, and the court should accept your statements about the marriage as fact.